Here in Australia, we are in the middle of summer holidays and people are slowly starting to think about the new school year beginning again.

Some of us don’t live in that paradigm anymore. We are school free. We live as though school doesn’t exist.

Except, of course, that it does. School is part of the fabric of our society and it can take quite a long time to extricate its tentacles from our thinking (a process known as deschooling).

Schools have gradually become less relevant and less “necessary” as society has become more technologically advanced and accessibility to information has increased. If you think about the history of compulsory schooling and about how society has changed, it is hard to believe that the majority of people still seem to believe that government mandated schooling and curriculum are relevant, helpful or perhaps even essential.

Or perhaps they have simply never paused to question our reliance on the school system for the instruction of society’s masses of children.

I am here with good news. 🙂

Schools are not essential for learning, for getting into university or for being “successful” in life! Schools are no longer the custodian and disseminator of all knowledge.

Knowledge, learning and all sorts of opportunities are widely and freely available in our modern society. It is not just a privilege for the rich, and apart from certain careers, formal instruction is not usually required at all. If someone chooses to undertake formal lessons or classes, however, these are usually available without ever setting foot inside a school building. Times are changing! Gone are the days when academic knowledge was a privilege for the rich, where knowledge was sequestered in dusty old text books in school classrooms.

Autodidactism is defined as “learning on your own or by yourself, and an autodidact is a self-teacher.” It is not an adequate term to explain the fullness of the parent-child dance that is unschooling but it is a helpful starting place for people stuck in the mindset that a human requires a teacher to enable them to learn.

Learning from Resources Readily Available in the Community

In our contemporary societies, we have a wealth of resources to inspire and equip us in our learning journey.

  • Libraries
  • Supermarkets & other shops
  • Banks (pocket money, budgeting, investing)
  • Sporting Facilities
  • Tutors
  • Grandparents & other older people
  • People from other cultures
  • Plays, shows, concerts
  • Volunteering
  • Internships
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • Museums, galleries, zoos
  • The public transport system
  • Churches and synagogues
  • Restaurants from other cultures
  • Travelling to other towns, cities or countries
  • Pretending to be a tourist in your own town!

Learning from Resources in the Home

Basically the entire home is filled with potential for learning. Sandra Dodd suggests making the most of that by seeing our homes as something akin to a museum, filled with treasures waiting to be discovered, or brought out at an appropriate time. Just for starters, how about things like:

  • The entire kitchen!
  • Old family photographs
  • Scales of all kinds
  • Maps and atlases
  • The computer
  • The internet!
  • Music (so many genres, cultures and artists to explore!)
  • Books and audio books
  • A sewing machine
  • Craft supplies
  • Board games (old, new, other cultures)
  • Clocks (analogue and digital)
  • The garden
  • The backyard ecological system
  • Pets
  • Microscope
  • Rulers and geometry supplies
  • A chemistry set
  • Bats, balls, trampoline, basketball hoop

Resources for Higher Level Learning

Most people assume that the older a child gets, the more they need school, college or university. Whilst some older teens and young adults will choose to engage in formal classes, or choose a career that requires a degree, there are many, many young people who thrive abundantly without formalised lessons of any kind. Blake Boles, in his brilliant books, College Without High School and Better Than College, does a pretty good job of showing how autodidactism can be an awesome choice for older teens and young adults. Entrepreneurship, travel and learning for interest rather than a piece of paper are supported by amazing resources such as:

Learning from Resources not Typically Thought of as “Educational”

Once confidence in autodidactism is achieved, it will become obvious that learning also happens in the midst of all sorts of other activities and resources, not often thought to be “educational”.

  • Youtube (check out channels like VSauce, Minute Physics, Minute Earth, In59Seconds, Quirkology)
  • Minecraft
  • All sort of Video Games
  • Playing with, well, anything!
  • iPods, iPads and other tablets
  • Computers
  • “Mucking around” with music
  • Watching television
  • Advertising (yep, really)
  • “Mistakes” and “Failures”
  • Regrets (yep, even those)

That being said, schools seem to work well for some people and some families benefit from using the service provided by schools, and that is totally fine, of course. I am not here to judge, but to show another possible path.

How wonderful it would be to see the day when schooling is no longer compulsory, but rather an option for those who wish to use it. John Holt, the pioneer of the unschooling movement, expresses a vision for this in his book, Instead of Education: Ways to Help People do Things Better.

I think making schools optional would be the fastest route possible to true school reform! If schools had to entice children to attend, and convince parents that it is a good choice for their family, they would have to create places children really want to go to, and parents see the relevance and value of!

In the meantime, those of us who choose to live school free can simply get on with the fun of living a learning lifestyle, trusting in our ability to learn what, when and how we want! 🙂

I’d love to hear your stories showing some examples of learning without school, especially when the learning has happened in surprising ways.

Note: The above graphic is obviously tongue in cheek. Anyone can obviously go to school if they really want to.  

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